Mississippi editorial roundup

The Associated PressJuly 15, 2014 

Recent editorials from Mississippi newspapers:

July 14

Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth on HIV progress:

Sometimes medical breakthroughs come in leaps. Sometimes the come in steps. And sometimes what looks like a leap turns out to be just a step.

That appears to be the case with a Mississippi girl whom last year medical researchers — in a story that made international news — hailed as the first person to be cured of HIV.

Unfortunately, the "cure" didn't last. Last week, the researchers announced that the virus that can lead to AIDS has returned in the child, now 4.

They are at a loss to explain what happened, how the virus could disappear and then come back.

Everyone involved in the research is disappointed. They thought they had hit a home run, ridding the child of the virus, which she had contracted from her infected mother, by implementing an aggressive treatment regimen soon after her birth.

Instead, the breakthrough was a temporary reprieve.

Even a temporary reprieve, though, is progress in the continuing battle against a disease that not that long ago was considered a certain death sentence.

The child went for more than two years without any sign of the infection or needing medication.

Researchers hope to find out what caused the disease to rebound.

If they do, it will help them take the next step toward finding a complete and lasting cure.




July 14

Sun Herald, Biloxi, Mississippi, on baseball stadium needing adjustment:

Constructing a baseball stadium in downtown Biloxi was never expected to be cheap. So it is cause for concern, but not alarm, that the projected cost of the project has risen by several million dollars.

Near the beginning of this afternoon's meeting of the Biloxi City Council, Architect Leigh Jaunsen with Dale & Associates will report on the current status of the project.

Work on the site at U.S. 90 and Interstate 110 has already cost about $9 million. Bids opened last week to complete the project would push its total cost to more than $41 million - $5 million more than the $36 million the city has to build the stadium.

"It's going to be a challenge," said Vincent Creel, Biloxi's public affairs manager.

Creel mentioned several things that could be done to trim $1.5 million off the cost, such as adjusting the length of the construction contract and using less expensive seating in the stadium suites.

But that would still leave the project $3.5 million over budget.

To save those additional millions at the expense of even more of the stadium's appeal is an ill-advised option.

As Creel said, "One of the things they're trying not to do is diminish fan experience."

As usual, the enthusiasm of Tim Bennett, one of the team's owners, is undiminished.

"I'm not panicked by this at all," Bennett said. "Everything we're going through is 100 percent normal. I've never been part of one that's come in on budget."

Still, as the Sun Herald's Mary Perez has reported, the next few days will be critical to the project, as the city, architect, engineers and team look at options and cost-cutting measures.

Those options include cutting out some features, and asking for financial assistance from the baseball team, Harrison County and the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino, which is leasing the site to the city for $1 a year.

Modifications should certainly be considered, but not, as Creel put it, at the expense of the "fan experience."

The challenges facing the baseball stadium are neither unusual nor insurmountable. But they do need to be dealt with in a timely manner so South Mississippi's newest attraction can take to the field next year.




July 15

Northeast Mississippi Journal, Tupelo, Mississippi, on education fund:

Mississippi's state tax revenue growth for the past three budget years places our state in the enviable position of being able to plan for bolder investment in vital programs like public education without anticipating a tax rate increase.

Mississippi's 2014 fiscal year ended June 30, and July 1 began the 2014-2015 budget cycle, for which appropriations were made during the 2014 legislative session.

Since 2012, Mississippi's revenue has increased from $4.9 billion to $5.37 billion, an average of 5.53 percent.

The 2015 revenue total is projected to grow 1.6 percent, but if revenues exceed projections during coming months that figure could be revised upward, as was the case in the spring of 2014.

Revenue increases during the past three budget years rise from a slowly growing economy, less robust than the national average for revenue increases, but preferable to consecutive years of revenue declines during the "great recession" late in the first decade of the 21st century.

In Mississippi, for the fiscal year ending on June 30, revenue grew by 5.57 percent, or $284.9 million, to $5.37 billion.

State revenue includes the sales tax on retail items, income taxes, corporate income taxes, casino taxes, the tax on insurance premiums and a few other smaller categories.

The recent growth allowed Gov. Phil Bryant and the Legislature to put the state budget back on more sound footing. The "rainy day" fund is filled to $409.5 million; teachers and some state employees have been given raises.

The weak link in the revenue growth's benefits is public education, whose Mississippi Adequate Education Program formula remains badly underfunded.

That shortfall stands in stark contrast to revenue growth.

House Appropriations Chairman Herb Frierson said the Legislature has been working toward full MAEP funding, a priority seldom achieved.

It is long past time to make full funding the rule, not the exception.

The Parents Campaign reports, "The Legislature appropriated $257 million less (in 2014) for our children's schools than is required by state law. That means that our public schools are operating on budgets that are $257 million short of what is required to run a 'C' level school. Considering that our children have been short-changed by more than $250 million in each legislative session under the current administration, a $7.4 million move to close the gap is not a serious effort."

Change the education priority, and at the same time improve our state's future.



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